STRONG MAYOR, WEAK SUPPORT?
by Carolyn Barta    Mon, Oct 24, 2005, 12:59 PM

“Hot button?” That was the term used in the morning paper to describe the strong mayor proposition on the Nov. 8 ballot. While the issue may trigger a visceral reaction from some people, hot it is not. Nobody is talking about the strong-mayor issue this time around. That and the recent Laura Miller/Ray Hunt flap could spell defeat for the watered-down strong-mayor proposition.

Voters will be going to the polls with the memory of Miller berating the rest of the council and a city staffer for their efforts to make sure Hunt didn’t move his headquarters out of Dallas. I agree with Miller that Hunt doesn’t need the tax abatement. Still, bidness is bidness, and that was the basis of the Hunt deal.

It’s not pretty when the mayor is at odds with the council. She comes across as a foot-stomper and finger-wagger. And that’s enough to make voters balk at giving the mayor – particularly this mayor -- the right to hire and fire the city manager.

Last spring, I wrote an op-ed piece that said voters would either approve the strong mayor proposal then or they would approve a redo of it this fall. One way or the other, they wouldn’t continue to put up with a City Hall that wasn’t working and a city council that refused to work together. Voters rejected the proposal the first time. Now they may be poised to do it again – because of a lack of trust in the independent action of this particular mayor.

The city functioned admirably in the wake of the Katrina disaster. Yet, despite the mayor’s own heroic response efforts, she seems to be losing public esteem. That, and a ho-hum attitude on the part of voters who care about the city and pay attention, doesn’t bode well for passage of  Proposition 1, which would give the mayor the power to hire and fire the manager. 

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